U.S. News

New Jersey Senator Proposes Plan to Avert HIV/AIDS Drug Copayments

May 15, 2009

New Jersey state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D) -- chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee -- earlier this week proposed a plan to temporarily reduce rebate checks to senior citizens earning $100,000 to $150,000 in an effort to alleviate the effects of possible budget cuts on certain populations, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Vitale's proposal also would avert planned $6 to $15 prescription drug copayments for people living with HIV/AIDS in the state (Livio, Newark Star-Ledger, 5/12).

The copayments are part of Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) $29.8 billion spending proposal for the state's new fiscal year and would collect $1.36 million by creating copayments for HIV/AIDS drugs based on a sliding scale determined by income. The copayments would affect 9,000 people living with HIV/AIDS who have obtained no-cost medicine from the state because they do not qualify for other assistance programs. Advocates said that the copayments will hurt patients who are already struggling because of the poor economy (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/23).

According to the Star-Ledger, Vitale's proposal would save the state $15.7 million, including $9.7 million needed to allow 17,000 low-income families to enroll in the state's health insurance program, FamilyCare. Senate Budget Committee Chair Barbara Buono (D) said that she does not believe it is possible to restore program cuts "given the collapse of revenues." According to the Office of Legislative Services, the current deficit for this year's budget, which ends June 30, is at least $1.2 billon. Vitale said, "Our convictions are going to be tested as we come to terms with the fact that we simply don't have enough money to fund all of the state's priorities." He added, "But unless funding is restored for programs like NJ FamilyCare, Medicaid drug benefits and the AIDS Drug Distribution Program, I will be voting against the" fiscal year 2010 budget (Newark Star-Ledger, 5/12).

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